Since I may not get around to telling my life story for quite a while (since I am busy with work, running, church activities, and daily chores), I have decided to write a summary so that those of you reading the beginnings of my memoir aren’t like “I have no idea what she’s talking about in this part of the story.”
I grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, with three brothers–two older, one younger. I went to a private Lutheran school (which had about 200 kids total K-9) until 8th. In 9th grade, I went to the public high school on the south side of Rochester, Mayo High School. Growing up, I had no exposure to drugs, alcohol, bad language. I lived in a bubble. When I got to high school, that bubble surprisingly didn’t pop.
I was a cheerleader my freshman year and then on danceline every year after that. I dated one boy, Rabi, for the majority of high school, starting the fall of my sophomore year. I was in love. I thought he was the boy of my dreams and I “just knew” we were going to get married. I lived for him–he was the center of my universe. I actually wrote in my diary once that I “couldn’t imagine what girls without boyfriends had to live for.”
As serious relationships without firm purity convictions go, Rabi and I slept together after dating for a little more than a year. But we had this nasty little habit of fighting, breaking up, and getting back together. At first, it happened maybe 2 times a year. But after a while, it happened every other week. He cheated on me twice, once sleeping with another girl. Sometimes he made me so angry that I felt like I hated him. Other times, I was so desperately heartsick that I wished I would go to sleep and never wake up.
Most of our breakups lasted only a few weeks–our first one didn’t even last 2 days. But other breakups lasted months; one lasted a whole summer. During those times, I dated other boys to fill the void. I didn’t know it at the time but I couldn’t stand being single. I slept with another boy the summer before my senior year of college (the summer Rabi and I were broken up), ironically after I had remarked that I didn’t think I could ever sleep with a boy after only dating him a few weeks. After that, sex wasn’t that big of a big deal to me. Rather, it seemed like something you could do with anyone.
Rabi and I got back together for our whole senior year of high school. That was the year he got me smoking weed and getting drunk on shots of vodka. The first time I smoked weed, I loved it. Some people say they don’t get high their first time–I definitely did. I felt like I was floating. I had been so against smoking weed before I tried it but after I tried it, I was hooked.
Drinking wasn’t really a new experience for me–my friend Kelly and I had been sneaking alcohol from her mom for a couple years before that. But it had always been Captain Morgan, which I find absolutely disgusting. So I had never been drunk because I could only choke down a few sips–as a result, I assumed all alcohol was disgusting. But when Rabi taught me how to take shots, I found my drinking strategy: small quantity, high potency. Getting drunk together and hooking up was a frequent thing for me and Rabi.
You need to know that while this was all going on, I didn’t feel at all like Rabi was twisting my arm. Rather, I felt like he was opening the doors of coolness to me. I was welcomed into his circle of friends, who partied regularly. I went to parties where people were drinking and smoking and wasn’t afraid to join in. I thought it was the life.
When high school was over, Rabi went away to be a camp counselor up north for the summer. It was a long, lonely summer without him. I turned to exercise and counting calories to distract me and pass the time–and so that obsession began. I also smoked weed more often with my friends–who had started smoking around the same time I had.
At the end of the summer, Rabi got home from camp. The first night I saw him, he was actually more disappointed over having to leave camp early (to chaperone the bus with the campers) than he was excited to see me. That was the breaking point. I finally realized that I wasn’t–and never would be–his #1 priority, like he was mine. We mutually agreed to break up.
We both went to the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. I saw Rabi a couple times the first couple of weeks we were there but after a while, he stopped wanting to hang out. For my whole freshman year, my relationship with Rabi would start and end, like the ocean tides or moon phases. My roommate, Hope, was a big partier so we got drunk and smoked weed a lot. By Thanksgiving time, I was smoking weed everyday, all day long. I never went to bed sober. During one of our “on” times, I was hanging out with Rabi when he said, “I feel bad that I introduced you to weed and alcohol–I feel like this is my fault.” A little offended (after all, what about my life was bad?) I reassured him that he may have introduced me, but I was definitely continuing on under my own election.
Luckily, I’m anal enough about academics that I still got good grades but I did gain the freshman 20 from getting the munchies so much. And there was a boy down the hall named Chris who for some reason, I found completely irresistable. Me, Hope, Chris, and his friends all got drunk together pretty regularly and one night, the inevitable happened: I seduced Chris into having sex with me. But when he got up to get a condom, the trance wore off and he said, “You know, I don’t think we know each other well enough to do this…” Usually it’s the girl who says something like that, so I didn’t know quite how to respond. But that was pretty much the end of Chris and I…for that year at least.
Over Christmas break, I slept with my old boyfriend from high school, another boy I just knew from high school (and had always had a crush on), and Rabi–all within a month. Soon after that, I found out that I had chlymidia (gee, what a surprise huh?) and had to tell every boy I slept with that they needed to get tested. Talk about a humbling moment.
Finally spring break came! I went down to Rochester to spend time with my family and hang out with my friend from high school, Kelly. Her cousin’s boyfriend’s family had an exchange student from Venezuela. He asked for my number, I gave it to him, and we made out. We spent a lot of time together over spring break and dated until he went back to Venezuela in July. Our relationship was very physical–we didn’t talk much but we had sex a lot. I tried to convince myself that I loved him–like they say, there is no limit to humans’ capacity for self-deception. German called me every once in a while over the next year just to talk–always reminding me of how much he loved me and missed me.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I worked at a department store and lived with 4 other people in a house. When I came home in the evenings, there was always a party going on. My friends would hand me a drink as I walked in the door and I would pound shots to try to catch up with them. Weed always helped to get the buzz going too.
One of the guys living with me had a friend who I thought was cute. So I “made my move” as I liked to think of it. He was my first one-night stand (who became a two-night stand). The boy left immediately afterwards. When I realized he was gone, I went into the bathroom and stared at myself, just standing there naked. I didn’t feel a thing. I knew that I should be bothered, that I should feel something because I had just been used. But I felt nothing. I asked myself, “What is wrong with me?”
My sophomore year I tend to think of as the “year of boys.” I didn’t date anyone but that didn’t stop me from sleeping around–soon my total was up to 6. After spring break my sophomore year (which me and my friend Kelly spent in Miami Beach), it became a game (with myself, which is even more pathetic) to see how many guys I could make out with. I thrived on feeling powerful–like I could choose any guy and make him want me. That’s what it felt like to me–that I was desirable and worthy. The saddest thing is that instead, I was actually flushing my worth down the toilet–in everyone’s eyes but mine. The last I counted, I had kissed about 40 guys.
My desire for attention from guys and for physical pleasure ruled my life. I kissed and slept with guys that I knew my friends liked, with complete disregard for how they would feel if (and when) they found out what I had done. I starved myself and punished my weed binges with exercise to have a sexy body. I spent hours upon hours in front of the mirror, desiring to be as sexy as Jessica Simpson and Brittany Spears. All I cared about was being desired. I wanted to be sexy. I wanted to be wanted.
And yet, in the midst of all that, I knew that my life was missing something. I couldn’t believe that this was all there was to life–living for the weekends and then drinking so much that I couldn’t remember anything. My life felt empty and pointless. I wanted a reason to live that was beyond myself–something I could really build my life on.
Toward the end of my sophomore year, Rabi came back into my life. We spent time together as friends but he was going to be a counselor again that summer and I was going to study abroad in Venezuela so nothing happened between us. I was also still in contact with German, the boy from Venezuela, and planned on seeing him when I was abroad.
When I first got to Venezuela, I was very homesick and lonely. I was staying with a host family and my friend Melody from the States. She was a Christian; I obviously was not. I had gone to Venezuela expecting crazy party times. But what ended up actually happening was much different.
One day, I was lying on my bed reading when I heard my roommate Melody talking to our host mom in her bedroom. They were talking about God and what it meant to believe in Him. I cannot explain why that conversation, that day intrigued me but it did. So I asked if I could join. Melody reluctantly let me join, thinking I was going to ruin her opportunity to share the gospel with our host mom. She continued on about how believing in God means living for Jesus, with Him as the center of your life. As I sat there and listened to Melody, the lightbulb went on in my head. I had always said I believed in God but I surely didn’t have Jesus at the center of my life. Here was something worth living for. When Melody finished, all I said was, “I don’t live like that.”
My desire for God had been awakened and I was a reborn child of God. Melody lent me her extra Bible and Desiring God by John Piper, both of which I just soaked up over the next month. I talked to Melody about God and spiritual things everyday. We stuck together a lot because we were the only 2 people out of our United States group (it seemed) that didn’t want to drink and let loose (although I still did a couple times…change isn’t overnight!)
I did see German while I was over there. I tried explaining the gospel to him and how I didn’t want to have sex anymore. I had been very convicted about my habit of sleeping around by 1 Corinthians 6:18-20. He didn’t understand at all–and we ended up having sex anyway, even after all of my protests. He called me after I had gotten back to the States and I had to tell him in a not-so-friendly way to not call me again, unless I called him. I haven’t talked to him since.
As I readjusted to being home, I knew that my new lifestyle and desire for God would be challenged by my old lifestyle and friends. It was a challenge that I didn’t entirely win. My 21st birthday was about a week after I got back. I got hammered at the bar. When we were leaving, I felt so angry (about something…don’t know what) that I threw my phone on the ground (and it shattered) and started crying. Back at my apartment that I shared with Jenny, I cried to my friend Kelly about how “This isn’t who I am anymore.” But things still didn’t change.
In fact, they got worse. Because my heart and spirit had been changed through God’s grace, I hated the party scene. I had always disliked it; I would have much preferred to sit at home with my good friends. But now I really hated it. So I drank more to be more drunk. More booze meant less awareness.
But I became a very belligerent person. All summer, whenever I got really drunk (by, say, taking 10 tequila shots in an hour) I cursed and yelled; I broke things; I blacked out. I once walked home all by myself in a fit of rage from downtown Minneapolis to my apartment (about 5 miles away). The scariest part? I woke up the next day without a single memory of the night before. I left angry messages on Melody’s phone–one minute, crying because I didn’t want to drink anymore; the next minute, pissed off because she didn’t want to be my friend.
The turning point came one night when I was especially angry at my roommate Jenny. I was yelling at her like usual but this night, I threatened to kill her and even attempted to strangle her. Other people were there and stopped me (I like to think that I wouldn’t have actually done anything to her) but after that night, I realized that I was absolutely out of control.
So I stopped drinking as much. I cut it back to 2-3 shots a night, down from the 10-12 I had been taking. But being at bars and parties sober enough to be conscious of what it was like, I remembered how much I hated it. One Saturday day in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, while at a homecoming party at 11 AM, I knew that I couldn’t keep kidding myself. I had changed and that was that. I wanted a new life, one with God. I couldn’t have a new life if I held on to my old life.
So I stopped drinking and going to parties (by then, it was October of my junior year). I broke up with Chris, who I had been “dating” at the time. It was a wonderful feeling–of going to bed sober and waking up without a hangover. Of being productive. Of doing what I wanted on the weekends and not what I thought I should do to be cool. Of having “joy without regrets” as my friend Carmela put it. I started spending more and more time with students and staff of Campus Outreach. They welcomed me into their circle with open arms and I felt very blessed to have them during that transition time.
But I became very aware of the truth in Matthew 10:34 over the next months. I really did lose my old life. All my friends, habits, lifestyle. The night that it really hit home was when my friend Kelly was coming down from St. Cloud to visit me. Instead of coming straight over, she went over to Jenny’s friend’s house to smoke some weed. Since I didn’t smoke anymore (or at least was trying not to), they didn’t invite me. So I was sitting all alone in my apartment while my best friend and roommate hung out without me, wondering where Kelly was. After I talked to Kelly on the phone and found out where she was, I hung up the phone and burst into tears. I knew things would never be the same.
It was hard to let go of my old lifestyle–the biggest reason being that I lost a huge part of who I had come to be: the girl at the party that every guy wanted. I lost that attention from guys. It may not sound like that big of a deal–but to me, it was losing my identity. It was hard but my hour and a half every day of reading the Bible was teaching me so many new things about God and Christianity that I knew it was more than worth it.
The winter of my junior year, I went to the Atlanta New Year Conference with Campus Outreach–a 4-day conference filled with Christian teaching, fellowship and music. It was there that I heard the Director of CO Minneapolis, Ken, say that Jesus was everything I ever needed and that he satisfied every desire. I had been smoked weed just weeks before the conference, still using it to try to escape from life and its trials. But at the conference, I realized that Jesus could be my escape too. And praise the Lord, I haven’t smoked weed since.
That same fall, after breaking up with Chris, I started dating/hanging out with Rabi again. We hung out almost every day and had many spiritual conversations. I finally accepted that Rabi was not in a place or willing to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and on the advice of my Christian friends, I told Rabi that we had to stop acting like we were dating; we couldn’t see each other every day. Then one night, I absentmindedly told him my thoughts on homosexuality over the phone (I think it’s a sin like any other). When I was done, I remembered his mom was a lesbian. That really was the end of our relationship. I saw him once after that because he owed me money and had some of my books. But we have not seen or talked to each other since. Another piece of my life lost.
The rest of my Christian walk (so far) has been pretty similar to what I suppose other Christians’ walks are like: filled with ups and downs, moments of understanding and moments of questioning, times of sorrow and grief tempered by times of happiness and overwhelming joy. It took many months but I know that I am completely forgiven by the Savior who gave His life to wash away everything written on this page–all of the horrible, hideous things that I’ve done are washed away by the blood of Jesus. And though I deserve an eternity in hell, I am bound for eternal life in heaven with my Lord and all my fellow believers. There is no greater reality than this. And there is no greater hope for humans than the Lamb of God, slain for sinners, resurrected from the dead, and who is now in heaven, ever interceding before the Father on my behalf.
Where I once had a life full of emptiness and despair, I now have a life full of eternal hope and earthly purpose–and the sacrifices and benefits cannot even be compared!! In the words of David Livingstone, the great African missionary, “I never made a sacrifice.”
Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blessed reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter?-Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink, but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in, and for, us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which HE made who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us.